In order to understand the lore as it is left for us, we need to explore and seek to understand the Heathen worldview of our ancestors. An understanding of that worldview allows us to decode the nuances of the ancient Lore and thus find the appropriate way to adapt the teachings of it to our modern society. To begin, we have to be honest with ourselves about the ease of modern life. Most of us live in houses or apartments with plenty of food available at the local shop rite, heat and air conditioning to manage temperature extremes, and a government that will help folks who don’t have jobs with programs like food stamps or welfare, not to mention medical insurance and easy access to medical care (even if the cost is ridiculous). Our ancestors had none of that. If a man didn’t build a shelter with his own two hands, he didn’t have shelter. If he didn’t get anything on his hunt, then he didn’t eat. If he didn’t have animal skins or other items in the winter, he froze. I think you get the picture. In summary, every decision and skill our ancestors had was actually a life or death situation. This causes an extremely different view of the world from our modern lazy one. This is one of the reasons why our ancestors lived in tribes or close communities. The presence of tribesmen meant safety and security, help with the harvest, help with building shelters, hunting, fishing, making clothes, raising animals, working the farmland. All of these things were a tremendous amount of work, and as such our ancestor’s bonds of loyalty were indeed strong, as their very survival depended on working together. This also influenced their morality and their sense of honor.
We live in a society that is overrun with Abrahamic morality and social overtones. AS a result our concepts of good and evil are heavily influenced by the Christian dominated society that wrote many of these laws. Now, in 2016, Christianity does not have as strong a hold on society, and we have seen a breakdown of some of the puritanical influence in societal law codes. However the proverbial damage has already been done. The concept of law is Germanic in origin, as our ancestors followed very strict rules called Thews or customary laws. Thews were simply the accepted societal laws of a tribe, they were not codified like modern legal systems, and they did not live or die on technicalities. They were much more ruled by the “spirit” of the law than the letter of it. The “Thing” was the town meeting where all grievances were brought out and settled, with a lawspeaker and/or the head of the tribe presiding. This was a judgement by your peers, and as such depended much upon the number of folk who would take your side in the dispute, and thus lend influence to your cause. As this was the only way to settle grievances legally, it again caused the mindset of the folk to be one of cooperation and all outcomes were considered with the greater good of the tribe as a backdrop. This foundational concept of the tribe’s survival and benefit colored every decision made by our ancestors, and their morality was completely based on it.
To our ancestors, concepts like “Good” and “Evil” were not as they are today. In their time, “Good” was any action that benefitted the tribe and ensured their success or survival, and “Evil” was anything overtly detrimental to tribal success or survival. That made for a very subjective morality, but one that is very in line with human nature. It also left everyone with a full understanding that there was accountability and a larger focus than simply our own personal desires and needs. In general it made for a far more “polite” society because the aim was not “peace” it was “Frith”. Peace is the absence of all conflict and a sense of complete safety, whereas Frith is a state of non-aggression with the understanding that it holds only so long as right action is maintained on both sides, and there will be immediate and likely violent consequences should either side break the frith. You see, for our ancestors, violence may not have been the first answer to a problem, but it was never totally “off the table” either. A man was held accountable for both his words and his actions, not only in his personal interactions, but in how those personal interactions might affect the survival or the success of his tribesmen. This creates an understanding of both accountability and responsibility, two things that have become sorely lacking in our modern society.